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Math Teacher In Lakewood Reinvents How Algebra 1 Is Taught After Failing The Subject As A Student

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) - Algebra 1 is the most failed class in high schools across the country. At Green Mountain High School in Lakewood, a student-turned-teacher, who failed Algebra himself, is taking a new approach. It's working so well as teachers from all over the country travel to Colorado to learn Alex Adkisson's secret to success.

He admits he's one of the last guys you'd expect to become a teacher, let alone a math teacher other teachers want to imitate.

"I was not the most successful math student for sure," said Adkisson.

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In truth, he failed algebra I twice as a student at Green Mountain High School. Now, 12 years later, he's revolutionizing it.

"I get to teach them vacuum lamination and also teach them exponential functions."

After graduating college with a Civil Engineering degree, he came back to his alma mater to launch AMPED on Algebra, a class that applies algorithms to running businesses like printing and woodworking. The school has even invested in industry-standard machinery like printing presses. Adkisson says the class gives kids a taste of everything from graphic design to manufacturing to business analysis, all while learning algebra.

"In business, we have our revenue. We have our costs. We set those slopes to differ. You have fixed costs so it starts a little bit higher, and you get to the intersection point, and honestly not to step on any math toes, but you've covered 60% algebra I right there," he said.

Sherri Kane of Missouri is among more than a dozen math teachers learning the program this summer.

"I love everything I've done. Not all learners are strong in four-wall classroom. A lot of them need to see it in action and put their hands on it. It gives kids introduction to possible jobs they might have later in the future that they never would have thought about," she said.

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"What I like to say is take all kinds of kinds," said Adkisson. "When you think of running a business, you don't want everyone with the same skillset."

He started AMPED on Algebra seven years ago. Today, it's being taught in 250 schools in 12 states. Green Mountain High School also has a class called Geometry in Construction. Both programs were spearheaded by math teacher Scott Burke, who had Adkisson as a student in his first Geometry in Construction class.

Adkisson says that class changed his whole perspective on school. He says he can relate to his students who struggle in math.

"I can tell them been there, done that, got the T-shirt."

In fact, he made the T-shirt and jokingly stamped it with, "English is important, but math is importanter."

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